Lil Muk has transcended. Where “Wildin” was an honest introduction to the melodic and resolute style of the 19-year old Olney flag holder, “Best For You” showed that through the loss of a close friend, Lil Muk was ready to speak to the world outside of his Philadelphia neighborhood. The song’s virality helped him achieve something that had eluded so many before him: clarity. He staked his claim to the crown of a city whose music scene continues to fly under the radar and began to walk into a path of ownership and security.
It’s been said that Lil Muk and the next generation of Philly artists don’t sound like the city. For those who choose to die on that hill, they discount just how Philly these youngins are: making something out of nothing, representing your section, speaking for your people. That is as Philly as it gets.
As he offers his first full project, About Time, released in February, to the world, Lil Muk remains grounded and focused. “Fade Away” puts into very real perspective the fear of being taken away from this moment while looking for guidance to continue forward. “Dangerous” arrives in the middle of the tracklist as a high-pitched reminder that the same income that can provide shopping sprees can also cover lawyer fees for friends caught in the system.
Legacy is forever. For artists in Muk’s position, it can be easy to succumb to the trappings, distractions, and negativity of sudden fame and abundance. And yet, Lil Muk’s mind is on the power of building his own lore.
You’re from Olney. What’s your favorite part about being from your section of Philly?
Growing up, it was good being in Olney. Everybody used to be at The Rec. If we weren’t there, it was 2nd & Champlost. The park meant a lot to me growing up because it’s where we would chill and hang out, but a lot of people are gone now. It hasn’t really been the same. And with Philly getting out of hand, everybody’s been distancing themselves. Not even just from each other but from Olney.
How would you describe yourself going through your younger years?
I was determined to win. I had a lot of ambition. I’ve always been that person. I was walking around broke, spitting game like I had a million dollars. I always believed in myself.
Where did you learn those lessons that would prepare you for the world?
It definitely wasn’t school. They teach you your ABCs and times tables, but they don’t teach you what you need to survive in the world. You have to go find that stuff for yourself.
For me, I learned by seeing other people fail. I even tried some of those same things myself. But when I failed, I learned from [my] mistakes.
When did you get pulled in by music and realized it was something you had a talent for?
I was into music at a young age. My mom says I always loved music. I found out I was good at it in middle school. My friends convinced me to take it serious. And a lot of people that ain’t here today used to refer to me as “the one” or “the ticket.” I knew at that point I had to lock in. And I did. I’m here now.
Was there anything outside of music you saw yourself doing?
I always saw myself getting into something like real estate. I actually was going to go to mechanic school to learn about being an electrician because I used to do that with a good friend of mine. Besides those, I didn’t know what I was going to [do] besides rapping.
I used to say all the time I was going to be this famous person y’all will see on TV. I was always thinking about leaving a legacy. And I never thought it would be in something like being a doctor, or a lawyer, or a banker. I want to be more than just famous. I’m trying to leave an impact. I have to leave a mark.
Something that cats my age and people in the city talk about is the city being known for spitters. But cats like you and the younger generation took on a more melodic style. It’s all a continuation of sounds that have always been in the city but it gets downplayed. Can you speak to those comments that you all don’t “sound” like Philly?
I wouldn’t say there is a sound that Philly rappers are supposed to sound like. Music is music. That’s what people have to understand.
Growing up, I saw and I listened to a lot of rappers, but I also listened to a lot of artists. An artist to me is someone who can make a song. They can make a hit record. They can say it’s not Philly, or it is Philly, but it wouldn’t make no difference to me. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I’m from Philly, and you can’t take that away from me.
What are some things that influence your music outside of other musicians and sounds?
My peers don’t rap, but they’ve always influenced me and gave that push to rap. Once upon a time, I felt like I didn’t even want to take this seriously. I felt like me being in the streets, or me doing something else, was more important than making music. But I had to turn my dreams into a reality, and I had to believe in myself before anyone else did.
At this point, you really can put a record out, watch it blow up, and reach millions of people. Can you speak to “Best For You” being that moment for you and what that moment felt like?
That moment felt like I won. There aren’t too many people I can name or that I’m even cool with that I can say, “Oh, they made it.” For me to do it, and I’m the youngest out of my posse, is a blessing to me.
I’m still taking it in to this day. But when that time came around and I knew this was my hit single, and I saw everyone going crazy over it, I just gave myself a pat on the back. I wasn’t out of my mind because I felt like I didn’t do anything yet but tap in and get everyone’s attention in Philly. There’s a whole world out there. I feel like I didn’t do a lot at all. Y’all ain’t seen nothing.
As you continue to build this legacy, what do you want the name Lil Muk to stand for?
I want people to respect me. I don’t want people to look at me like, “He’s a child that got lucky.” That’s why I move the way I’m moving. I want it to stand for business. I’m going to take the “Lil” off my name when I become bigger than life itself.
Photos by Sigmund Ohwo (main) and Donte Tucker.